Writing about Writing for Solo Novo Blog Readers

Writing about Writing—A useful technique for getting control of your story ©2012 by Jack Remick

After rewriting the last three scenes for the fourth time.

I find myself rewriting the same three scenes over and over. I’m looking for the deep place they hook to but I can’t find it.

Scene One Is the Explanation where Mitch explains in detail to Squeaky why he has to die..

Scene Two is the Walkout where Mitch showers, bringing back memories of Cain at the Oak View School for Boys.

Scene Three is the Fat Man where Mitch finds out who the Fat Man is and why he sprang him early.

I’m looking for some connection here, something that will tell me I’m on the mythic wave. I look for sets: Squeaky and Mitch, a two character scene; Mitch alone (in the shower, Perry, the Guard walks out) evokes a deliverance scene with Cain, but also washes Mitch as he preps for the ritual crossing to the other side and his diabolic rebirth as the God of Dead; Mitch and the Fat Man masks a ritual of transcendence when Mitch makes his big decision—already indexed in the scene with Geraldine in Yellow Dress—but not worked out when he tells Geraldine that he can never see her again.

Once the mythic wave goes silent, I’m lost. I can’t add anything new. I rewrite because I find nothing to add, but it’s a stall pattern—write what I know while I wait for the mythic wave to gear up again.

So one part of me says ‘You already know all you can and need to know (a reference to Keats’ Ode On A Grecian Urn), and so the story has been told.

Story, Structure, Style.

Work them in order: Write into character and story for a year, then a splash write of the Cut To Sequence that shows me I’ve written a through line with character development and plot tracks and once the story is in order, I work the scenes for depth and back story. To end with stylistic choices.

But I’m afraid to let go of this familiar story. It’s comfortable being in that place with Mitch and Squeaky and their objects. It’s safe to stay there instead of prepping for the release—is there here an index to Mitch’s early release?—and turning to the rewrite of the story and the scenes.

The problem is not to let go before it’s ready, not to close off, but to leave it open so the rewrite makes sense. Every scene can be redone, every arc recalculated, every character remapped for back story and story arc—for example, I know nothing about Martin—not even his last name and he isn’t talking to me—the mythic wave is silent. I think of Herodotus’ plea to the gods—why have you quit speaking to me? Did the rhapsodes take dictation from the Unconscious? Was the voice from the Unconscious the voice of the Gods? Has writing practice left me in that silent place with Herodotus? With the Unconscious no longer speaking to me? Maybe the issue is that my part of the Universal and Solitary Story has been told in this stretch. Maybe the Platonic Perfection hinted at in the Mythic Wave is all I get. Maybe It is. IT=The Mythic Wave telling me it’s time to move from the irrational abreactive and automatic mind into the rational numeric mind and to make choices. Maybe I don’t want to leave the place where the emotion of the mythic wave breaking free lifts me to a hormonal high that leaves my hand shaking and my voice quavering when I finish an in-depth bout of creative spilling. Maybe this is the abandonment, the cause of the silence—as if it’s enough and now I have to practice my own techniques—Discipline is my obligation to the Given.

Maybe the mythic wave (Jung’s Collective Unconscious) knows when it has run the gamut and has given all it will give for this story—maybe it, the voice in the mythic wave, is satisfied with its gift and now rests, lays back to see what I will do with its little two-hundred and seventy-five page present.

I see now that it is time to move into the Style Phase and to let the rewrite determine what needs to be added or taken away and then at that time when the holes open up, the mythic wave will direct my pen where it needs to go.

In Sum: I have to move from feeling mode to thinking mode. I don’t recall one instance in the past year when I thought about what to write—instead, I came to the table with an idea of a whole-hole thing trusting that a part of it would reveal itself to me, and this helps me understand why I have rewritten the last three scenes four times each—it is the end of the road, time to rest, time to let the left brain work on the given, time to use the numeric side of the brain.

And this is how the Cut To Sequencing technique acts as an End Stop—it takes the through time and in one feral gift from the mythic wave jerks the story into an order—a fusion of feeling and thought—but again and still driven by the Unconscious energies of the abreaction bursting across the corpus callosum, that little white highway between creation and discipline.

At the root of the gift there is the structural integrity of the scene. Without the scenic principles of Character, Dialogue and Timing, the writing betrays itself as nonsense and this evokes Brahms who said that he studied Bach’s fugues in order to discipline himself so that when he went into rhapsodic mode and took dictation the gush had a form to contain it.

So now, the fusion of the elements persists and I resist because I love the feeling of being lost in this emotional forest of time writing only to return from the abyss to find myself at a table in time while for 31 minutes I was out of time, out of space. The rhythm of creation—taking dictation from God Mind—then is loss, to wander to cherish the form as receptacle for the sea breaking out, to return to real time with the only marker of the journey being the six columns of scrawl on the yellow page—then to type it up.

Always type it up because in typing, there is a fresh read—in real time—of the suspended reality of the rhapsodic moment when the mythic waves drives and guides the hand into the new—taking the known: words, vocabulary, grammar, the sentence, the image, the action and fusing it into a flow. An object you didn’t know before takes shape and can create in the mind of the readers and listeners, the image—and this is why we read the gush aloud—to relieve the terror and fear that what the wave gave us is nothing. But it is always something if you trust who you are and trust what biology has built into you. That Collective Unconscious, the Sea-Deep Mind that Jack Moodey wrote about. The Sea-Deep Mind speaks, words from the wave, voice from waters profound…

5-15-2008 Second Writing About Writing: Louisa’s Café

          Today I write about what I don’t know. The challenge of voice in a First Person Narrative. I have two problems:

1. The Voice of the Inner Story which is Mitch’s relation of events from the time of his arrest up to his release and the death of the Fat Man.

2.  The voice of the Outer Story which is the full backstory on Mitch’s life as a mercenary, his family history, and his coming of age.

1. I’ve chosen to write the Inner Story in present tense. The problem is the vehicle—when, in a First Person Narrative, the narrator speaks, what is the vehicle for transmission of the story? It’s not a written text so he’s not reading it aloud. It is told directly to the reader in Present Time, so there is a break in the framework that demands a suspension of disbelief so that I can accept the convention of the Narrator talking to me—Maybe that is the psychological solution—the narrator talking to his writer telling me his story and as I move aside in my place the reader takes over.

Bob is right—the convention of the Narrator speaking to the reader is accepted by the reader and isn’t a violation of the realist precept and it releases the writer from the burden of creating a phantom vehicle or a pretext (is this what Gide meant?) for the narrative structure.

2. The question of the Outer Story isn’t as thorny because I use a convention of Story within Story. The voice relating the narrative in the past tense uses the vehicle of a manuscript he is writing and so the convention is that the reader is privy to his writing as he writes it.

But there is still the issue of how the reader gets access to the Outer Story if the narrator hides it—but the illusion here is that the reader experiences the Outer Story as the narrator tells it—so we see him writing. No, we see the text he has written. But how does the reader get to it?

This problem lies at the heart of any novel in that, as opposed to a film where we have the voyeuristic luxury of watching through a window, in the novel we’re invited into the mind of the narrator to witness his reality as it unfolds. In this we become participants in the story as we read the illusory pages not knowing if we can trust the narrator at all whereas in the film, the action and image create their own illusion without reference to our participation.

Some solutions:

1. Don’t worry about it. Let the story tout with its inner and outer complexities.

2. Write it as well as possible. Bob says that neither of the breaks in the realist precepts matters if the language is good enough.

3. Work in a more intensely poetic idiom so that the image and action of the narrative come alive and enter into the reader’s mind. As Natalie used to say before she gave up writing practice—mind connects to mind. In writing a poetic idiom, the voice illustrates a number of psychological traits—education, experience, desires, dreams. The narrator by speaking rhythm and beat using rhetorical structures invites the reader into the images so that instead of waiting for the passive induction of the moving picture, the reader is active, or, as MacLuhan said, writing is a hot medium whereas film is of necessity a cool one.

4. The goal of all fictional writing is story. Story is a competition for a resource base told in action and image. In the narrative then, the poetic medium substitutes for the filmic image but the result is the same—the firm implanting of memories into the mind of the perceiver. Thus phenomenology and pragmatics of CS Peirce inform fictional writing as well, as when the Icon, Index and Symbol all work as a unit to induce a feeling of being there. Sulaika writes that any image that evokes a pre-existing memory in a reader is good and the writing is a success.

5. So this brings me to a question—What Bob means when he asks if the writing is good. Good writing must evoke feelings in the reader and it must create images that link and hook together into that elusive beast Stewart calls the Harpoon. And the writing must give the illusion of action and the only way to achieve that is through the use of strong Anglo-Saxon monosyllabic verbs—Strike, Hit, Yank, Thrust.

Good writing then, is film frozen one image at a time in a single concrete noun linked to a single action verb that evokes an emotional response in the reader—whether he wants it or not.

This brings me to a quandary—Can a reader choose not to accept the image? When a viewer looks at a painting (or a stop sign for that matter) the object goes into the brain  via a purely mechanical but physiological track from lens to retina to optic nerve to visual cortex where the viewer has no choice but to accept it—once seen, then, an image is fixed in the axons and neurons.

But can the reader who has to be more active, reject, or choose not to process the image in the writing? The answer lies in the strength of the stylistic obstacles the writer throws up to block processing and acceptance.  Style can stand in the way of perception. This notion is akin to a listener processing a Mozart melody such as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Perception is insidiously easy but the truth of the musical structure is embarrassingly difficult. Thus in writing, we must strive for the immediate and easy perception—no stylistic challenges—Melody, while building complex structures, Harmony.

These techniques in writing are—plot track, symbol, object, hook as in the Cut To technique but analyzed out into complex metaphoric language—thus allowing the complete story to be told in each and every scene in the narrative.

To summarize: Story is image and action for quick acceptance; complexity lies in the structural framework that binds the narrative into a unified but not of necessity organic whole. To accomplish this, the writer has to discover the ritual structures that inform the myth base. The myth base, once seized and raised to consciousness, will provide the framework for the complex metaphoric reality we call book.

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A Good Way to End 2011, kick off 2012

I connected at last with Matthew Robinson to chat about The Deification on his show The Final Cut.
Here’s the link. The podcast will be archived on iTunes.
Chattin’With Matthew

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Field Work in Lowell for The Deification

Kerouac's words written in stone

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Story About Treatment for Blood

This is the treatment for Solo Novo Facebook page readers who are following my blog entries there:

Blood  is the story of Henry Mitchell,  a mercenary who steals women’s underwear hoping he’ll get caught and lifted from the blood-filled crime-rich life he’s been leading. Imprisoned, Mitch uses his time to write his own story which begins as a cynical and misanthropic tale but, inspired by Genet’s Notre Dame des Fleurs, and The One-hundred and twenty days of Sodom he becomes enlightened and realizes that, on the outside as a soldier of fortune, he was killing the wrong people.

It is a story about a man who sees that there is no excuse for the human race but also sees that he’s been killing the wrong people. It’s a story about blood and semen and the inevitable destruction of the race. It’s a story about a man who is so pessimistic and misanthropic that he wants to see the human race eradicated. It is a story about a man who has the killer gene. It is a story about a man who kills because he’s told to kill until his eyes open and he understands that he’s a tool in the hands of his bosses. It’s a story about the evolution of writing from scratchings on stone to semen smears on concrete to writing on tissue paper to writing with pen and ink to writing on the typewriter to writing on the computer. It is a story about how memory is lost when the writing is done. It is a story about losing the past when we try to capture it. It is a story about a man who at last sees truth and makes a decision to go back into the river of blood. It is a story about love and death and blood. It is a story about a man who achieves sainthood but his god is the god of chaos and annihilation.

 

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First Installment of the Q and A at Writing While the Rice Boils

Deborah Allen, blogmaster at Writing While the Rice Boils has posted the first installment of an interview with me about my novels and my writing techniques. If you don’t know Deborah’s blog, you have to follow it. She brings a complete range of writers to the table, she shares techniques from all over the globe. She’s plugged into the writing world in a unique way. The details are here:

Jack’s Q and A on writing while the rice boils

On Wednesday, December 7th, Deborah Allen blogmaster of writingwhilethericeboils  will run the first installment of a Q and A session with Jack Remick. Jack answers questions about writing practice, story structure, technique, and scene structure. Check it out at: http://writingwhilethericeboils.blogspot.com/

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The Deification, Homage to the Beats

I grew up in California’s Central Valley. The Valley was huge but stifling. If you climbed the town water tower one foggy night and the cops hauled you down, it made the local newspaper–“Boys Saved From Fall and Likely Death”.  Your one goal was a customized car with a flame job and flipper hubcaps. You wore Levis or Chinos and you cut your hair short. And then along came Jack Kerouac and On The Road. Right behind him came William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Philip Lamantia, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and, of course, Allen Ginsberg.  And everything changed overnight.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Herb Caen wrote about these crazy people living in dens of iniquity in North Beach. He called them “Beatniks”. He took the term from Kerouac who used it to mean Beatitude, but Caen mixed it up with Sputnik and a whole generation was born.

And of course the craziness of the Beatniks was magnetic to boys hungry for Nirvana. Along with my other rebellious friends I headed to the City (on the West Coast, San Francisco is-The City), to see what was happening. We camped outside the Blackhawk and the Jazz Cellar. We lived for the weekends and City Lights Bookstore were we bought the Beat Bibles—On The Road, Junkman’s Obbligato, Howl . We ran up and down Grant and ate Chinese food in bombed out restaurants, we  stayed in crazy wino hotels in the Mission District because the rooms were cheap and the inn-keeper didn’t mind half a dozen doped up teenage hunger artists sharing a room.

On The Road and the Beatniks set me free. Get out of the Valley, they said. Go find your America. And some of us did.  Zooming back to the Valley stoned and giddy with wine and words, I knew I wanted to be a poet, be a writer, see the world. So I did.

This novel,  The Deification, pays homage to those wild men whose vision of the world opened up the social revolution of the 1960s. They changed me. They changed you. They changed everything.

The publisher, Coffeetown Press is shooting for a release of The Deification to synch with the release of the film version of On The Road coming in December, 2011.

The Deification is the first book of The California Quartet. All four novels are slated to appear under the Coffeetown Press imprint. The Deification will arise on December 10th, 2011. You can buy the novel with a pre-publication order from Coffeetown Press or from Amazon.com. Here are the urls:

Deification at Amazon

coffeetown press

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Coming from Coffeetown Press in 2011-2012

 

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The Deification & Gabriela and the Widow

I just signed a multi-book contract with Coffeetown Press to bring out The California Quartet and Gabriela and the Widow. All five novels should be available by December 2012.

The first release will be The Deification. Sounds like the Rapture, but it’s the first book  of The California Quartet. We’re looking at a December 1 release.

The Deification  tells the story of Eddie Iturbi, a young car-thief obsessed with the dark magic of Beat culture in 21st Century San Francisco. Taking a trip to the hazy Underworld of poetry gods where rats eat the ones who fail, Eddie links up with living legend Leo who sees in him a disciple worthy of continuing the Beat tradition. But first, Eddie has to survive the Buzzard Cult where a mysterious mentor reveals the discipline of blood and words….

Gabriela and the Widow  is the story of a 19 year old Mexican immigrant who takes care of a 92 year old widow in a mysterious and mythical California. Here’s the opening–

The year the war ended, Gabriela led her sick Mother out of Tepeñixtlahuaca. The bones of the villagers still had meat on them then and the hearths still had embers in them but the retreating soldiers had chased the skinny dogs away and burned the houses. Scattered in the jungle the bodies of young women—always the first to pay—lay left to rot. The young men all were either dead or had become soldiers and had, in their own time, committed atrocities…

More fiction here

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Interview with Jack Remick by Matthew Robinson

Listen to an audio interview with Jack Remick on Blood. Interviewed by Matthew Robinson of BlogTalkRadio. June 23, 2011.

http://rfmp.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/the-final-cut-episode-69-interview-with-author-jack-remick/

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An Interview with Jack Remick by Joel Chafetz

A written Q & A interview where Jack Remick and Joel Chafetz discuss Jack’s recently published novel, Blood. (Published by Camel Press, Seattle, WA. 2011)  This  insightful reading enhances understanding  of Jack’s writing process and the complex storyline in Blood.

Blood Interview 06-22-2011_reformatted

PDF File size: 243 kb

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